It was a night of success and splendor as The Sri Lanka Association of Manufacturers and Exporters of Rubber Products (SLAMERP) celebrated its 31st Annual General Meeting (AGM) for the year 2017 at Cinnamon Grand Colombo on the 16th January 2018; the AGM followed by a gala cocktail brimming with endless entertainment and exhilaration. The association was inaugurated in 1985 with the primary objective of comprehensive representation, advocacy and champion to all manufacturers and exporters of rubber products in Sri Lanka.
Mr. Prabhash Subasinghe, Managing Director of GRI, was re-elected Chairman of SLAMERP for the third consecutive year during the association’s Annual General Meeting (AGM).
Chairman of SLAMERP, with the vision of being a catalyst for the next generation of growth in the rubber industry, and his fervent desire is to provide the right impetus for continuing growth and to achieve new heights and more success with the rubber industry in Sri Lanka; Mr. Subasinghe opened his address with gratitude and acute foresight with the promise that he will bring about further success, progress and growth to SLAMPER in the Year 2018. The turnover of Sri Lanka’s rubber industry today stands at approximately US $1 Billion, a majority of this turnover is contributed by SLAMERP’s member companies. For the year 2017, it is estimated that Sri Lanka recorded rubber product exports worth US$ 855 Million, this reflects a year on year growth of approximately 11%. Mr. Subasinghe however pointed out with disappointment that rubber production in the country grew only 7% to 85,000 Tons in 2017. “The local demand for rubber is almost 130,000 Tons, this creates a major shortfall and inefficiency. As a cautionary note, our neighbors in Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia have all grown their rubber production between 10 and 25 percent.”
He went on to speak on the championing efforts of the association, SLAMERP had successfully engaged with the Government of Sri Lanka in a number of key discussions with the aim of removing obstacles and assisting with industry growth. In 2017, Sri Lanka had to face an unjustified Anti-Dumping and Countervailing Duties (CVD) charge imposed by the USA for Pneumatic OTR tires. SLAMERP took immediate action in response to this claim, and it was with the able assistance and support of the Government of Sri Lanka, the Department of Commerce and the Attorney General’s Office, that they were able to minimize the consequence of this anti-dumping charge. Mr. Subasinghe spoke in depth about the Rubber Industry Master Plan, the brain child of The Sri Lanka Society of Rubber and the Rubber Secretariat, and which has been endorsed by the government. SLAMERP’s Chairman then took time to stressed upon the critical activities that need to be implemented in order to make the rubber industry Sri Lanka a UD $3 billion industry by 2020; “Sri Lanka needs to be known as a serious player in raw material production, there is no question that our overall rubber production needs to increase to at least match our regional competitors. The quality of our people is the engine that drives this industry forward, our country does not have tire testing laboratories that are in par with global standards. We need the government’s’ assistance to set up a requisite technical training centers and accredited Tire Testing Laboratories; last but not least, all of us in this room must take necessary action to fully execute the vision and actions laid out in The Rubber Industry Master Plan.”
Chief Guest, Hon. Eran Wickramaratne, the current State Minister of Finance and member of Parliament of Sri Lanka, who attended the function; congratulating the newly appointed committee, he underlined that the rubber industry has made a tremendous contribution to the country since its inception in 1876 and is becoming a pioneer in the natural rubber industry in Asia, as of now Sri Lankan natural rubber has become an industrial raw material with global significance, its economic benefit has been significant in attracting investment, job creation and raising foreign exchange earnings. Hon. Wickramaratne further stated “Friends, our national unity government envisions an export orientated economy in our development strategy; the ministry of plantation and industries will collaborate with various stakeholders to implement Sri Lanka’s Rubber Industry Master Plan for the period 2017 to 2026. The master plan targets achieving an annual gross industry turnover of nearly US $4.4 billion by 2025; this requires an investment estimated at over UD $1.5 billion over the medium term to augment the existing investment to reach such potential.
“The rubber industry has untapped potential and I am happy that our government is determined to ensure that we make the most of what we can in this industry, we are committed to strengthen the industry by providing critical industry infrastructure upon demands of the private sector.” He then gave his viewpoint of the rubber industry, “this industry I believe, has a much greater potential in the long haul when opposed to other traditional industries, we will therefore play a pivotal role in the rubber industry by bringing more productivity, enhancing technology and harnessing production innovation so that we can compete against fierce global competition.” Taking note on the Chairman’s address, he stated, “I’m impressed with the performance of the rubber industry, Mr. Subasinghe mentioned that we are the world’s leading solid rubber tires manufacturer with market share of over 60%, we much now raise the ante in other areas, I also just heard that we are going to soon have an agriculture rubber tire production center in Sri Lanka, I am sure that we now moving in the right direction.”
Dr. Sisira Ranatunga also took the opportunity to make a presentation on the Finite Element Analysis & Simulation Centre [FEASC], one of the 25 projects included in the Sri Lanka Rubber Industry Master Plan. This project will provide the necessary support in enhancing the rubber industry’s technical capabilities, in order to produce high value-added products, the project objectives include developing necessary skills via the use of FEAS for modeling and simulation of rubber products and other items. In full support of this project, the government has granted an investment capital of LKR 50 million. Dr. Ranatunga spoke of the possibilities that this renowned technology could contribute to various industries such as defense, aerospace, automobile etc. thereby promising great potential compared to other conventional industries in the country.
The Chairperson of the Export Development Board (EDB), Ms. Indira Malwatte gave her input on the Chairman of SLAMERPs note with respect to the lack of a skilled labor force in the labor industry, she added that the Export Development Board collaborated with SLAMERP arranged many International training programs for personnel in the Rubber Industry. Over 100 personnel from the Rubber Industry attended the University of Cochin to be trained in Advance Rubber Technology. A training was arranged in the United Kingdom for ten senior personnel from the Rubber Industry for Technical Training and Exposure at the Abdul Razak Research Center UK. She further gave her views of opportunities for the rubber industry, “The automobile controlling sector, even though limited in production, could be identified as a niche market that could utilize rubber from Sri Lanka.” Ms. Malwatte then ended her address on a high note, “I wish the association the very best for the year 2018 and assure you that the Export Development Board will be there to hold your hand along the way.”